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Putting the mockers in their new place

After fixing it for schools and colleges, Dearing promises universities can expect no sacred cows to remain, reports Susan Young. Joanne Sutcliffe and Toby Younghusband-Francis are satisfied customers of one of the newest universities, Luton.

Both graduates of the contemporary history course, they plan to marry next year.

Joanne starts her first job on Monday with bankers ING Baring, while Toby is still seeking work.

They stoutly defend Luton against mockers, and profess themselves delighted with the education they received in the Bedfordshire town once most famous for the Vauxhall works.

Toby, 22, got a B and a D in English literature and history A-levels at Esher Sixth Form College. Once he got his results he started phoning, and found only Luton offered a single-subject contemporary history course.

"It turned out very well," he said. Staff quality was high and courses were relevant - students were taken to Europe to study the European Commission and moves towards a federal Europe.

Joanne, 21, of South Woodham Ferrers in Essex, was equally enthusiastic. She did not do so well in her A-levels as planned, getting Ds in English literature and history, and found her place through clearing. She ended up with a 2:2 - Toby gained a 2:1 - and liked the place as well as the course.

Both have noticed a little antagonism towards new universities but are dismissive of it. Joanne has spotted job adverts specifying degrees from "a good university". "That's a bit disheartening," she said.

Toby did get a little ribbing about Luton from friends: "But they were doing economics, and when I told them some of our lecturers were from the LSE they were envious. And anyway, they were only at Kingston."

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